Letter from the Department Head | 2017 ECE Annual Report | ECE | Virginia Tech


Letter from the Department Head | 2017 ECE Annual Report

Luke Lester headshot
Luke Lester, ECE Department Head

THE IMPRESSIVE GROWTH of the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech continues unabated.

In 2016, we greeted 530 new undergraduates into the electrical engineering (EE) and computer engineering (CPE) degree programs, which is up approximately 17 percent compared to the previous calendar year. In January 2017, we conducted a census of the number of ECE undergraduates that we advise and found that number to be 1,480. Wow! Fortunately, we completed our expansion of ECE Student Services in 2016 and now have eight academic advisors and staff to advise these students on course choices and career options in ECE. We are very proud of our renewed emphasis on high-quality advisement and believe it is contributing much to the undergraduate experience.

We have also grown our graduate program to 610 students, again primarily through an increase in master of engineering (MEng) students, which is growing more and more popular with international students seeking good jobs in U.S. high-tech industries. Meanwhile, the Virginia Tech College of Engineering overall is expecting to enroll about 1,775 first-year students from the high school ranks, plus 500 or so transfer students. As I have said in previous annual reports, ECE is keeping pace with this growth by hiring aggressively. In 2016, we hired eight new faculty members. We introduce seven of them starting on page 18, and the other was introduced in our last report. In 2017, we have already hired four new faculty members and have authorization to bring on another four.Our continued efforts to get the word out through our "Focus on Research" publication in the fall, this annual report, and the visibility of our faculty's research on Google Scholar has rewarded us with another good year in the U.S. News & World Reports rankings. I am pleased to tell you that our graduate program in electrical engineering has improved to 18th in the country and computer engineering to 17th. These are our best graduate rankings ever, and the third time that both degree programs have simultaneously been in the top 20.

This annual report celebrates our department's excellence, including highlights such as the cover story on GameChangineer, which has been developed by Professor Michael Hsiao to teach young students how to create video games using plain, logical English. In the past year, Dr. Hsiao has introduced GameChangineer to many students and teachers throughout South- west Virginia, and ECE has further plans to make it available to all counties in Virginia through 4H Youth Development.

I am also proud to inform you that in 2016, ECE won a prestigious engineering education grant entitled "Radically Expanding Pathways in the Professional Formation of Engineers" from the NSF Revolutionize Engineering Departments (RED) program. Spearheaded by Professor Tom Martin, this five-year project will foster experiential learning and open-ended design. Our new ECE curriculum will increase the number of paths to an engineering degree for students, giving them the freedom to choose a variety of concentrations—from biomedical applications to digital arts—and provide outreach opportunities for K-12 students in underserved and underrepresented populations.

If you are interested in helping to support these projects or others that are featured in this report, please do not hesitate to contact me, or the College of Engineering advancement team. Go Hokies!

Luke Lester

Department Head